18 May, 11:09
IRFU Chief Executive Philip Browne has issued a statement following confirmation of Ronan O'Gara's decision to retire from playing professional rugby.
Tuesday, May 10 saw the tentative birth of the Rainbow Cup - the working title of the new competition which is due to commence no later than the 2006/7 season, and is conditional upon certain criteria.
With an initial minimum run of five seasons put on the Cup, it will encompass a 24-team, seven-week competition to be played in the September/October window between teams from:
Wales (4) Ireland (4) Scotland (3) Italy (4) and South African Rugby's nine top provincial teams
This will be the first structured professional club/provincial rugby union competition between the Northern and Southern hemisphere. All parties agreed that this is a fresh and commercially attractive opportunity, which has great rugby development benefits.
Brian van Rooyen, President of SA Rugby, stated that he was pleased with the discussions held between the parties as the competition has many benefits for SA Rugby. He confirmed that he would report back to SA Rugby's President's Council.
John Hussey, Celtic League Chairman, stated both the League and the Celtic Unions are very excited about the opportunity. This coupled with everyone's commitment to realise the full potential of the competition has made this a good day for world rugby.
The announcement follows on from the calling-off of a proposed Anglo-Welsh Cup - a 16-team competition which would have seen Wales' four Regions up against 12 Zurich Premiership sides.
The Rainbow Cup had been muted before in South African rugby circles this year. Former SA Rugby managing director Rian Oberholzer had initially put forward the idea of a 12-team competition, involving South Africa's top eight provinces compete and the Zurich Premiership clubs in a month-long competition throughout September and October - the end of the South African season and the start of the European club season.
But Premier Rugby, the group which runs the Premiership in England, rebutted the idea.